Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Where Is the Board in FSCJ's Issues?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Where Is the Board in FSCJ's Issues?

Article excerpt

The president of Florida State College at Jacksonville paints a grim picture of FSCJ's finances.

Its enrollment, now at 25,775, has grown by 37 percent in the last five years while state funding per student has dropped by 35 percent in those five years.

This year, the college is on track to run a deficit of up to $3.5 million, forcing it to tap into reserves, said Steve Wallace, president of FSCJ, which has been under increased scrutiny recently.

"It has forced us to operate more tightly as an institution than ever before," Wallace said.

Someone tell the board of trustees.

FSCJ's board attempted to give Wallace a $100,000 windfall by approving for him to transfer accrued sick leave, most of which he could not have cashed upon retirement, to accrued vacation that he could cash out upon leaving FSCJ.

This for a man who makes a base pay of $328,000 and whose total compensation with benefits, housing allowance and other perks tops $500,000.

Wallace and the board recently agreed to rescind that action after it was cited by a state auditor as illegal.

The board's effort to move sick leave to Wallace's vacation account amounted to extremely poor judgment and lax financial discipline, if not an odious attempt at sleight-of-hand.

More recently, FSCJ's administration has been scrambling to make amends after an internal audit uncovered problems with Pell Grant awards to more than 700 students that failed to meet federal requirements. Students likely will be billed following the college's mistakes, and FSCJ may be forced to repay as much at $2.8 million to cover the inappropriate awards.

MISTAKES MAY COST STUDENTS

Even as tuition was being raised to offset state funding declines, the board approved $300,000 in salary increases for nearly 30 administrators - some as high as 30 percent - beginning last year.

When asked for details about bonuses awarded by Wallace and approved by the board, the administration declined to provide them, saying state law protects records "reflecting evaluations of employee performance" from being disclosed.

That's nonsense, and apparently the state Legislature agrees because it passed a law effective July 1 that requires such records to be made public.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

A state audit released in January cited FSCJ for a potential conflict of interest involving a top administrator who accepted $60,000 in consulting fees from a New Jersey college after he helped sell that college an FSCJ-owned textbook program called Sirius Academics.

Don Green, executive vice president for instruction and services, who makes $189,000 at FSCJ, was paid $130 per hour for consulting for Essex County College in New Jersey when he was also serving as CEO of FSCJ's Sirius Academics.

An investigation, which also included allegations that Green used FSCJ staff to assist with his Essex work, was concluded last year but the results were not disclosed. …

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